The above video aired in October 2021. A year later, Caitlin Little’s story continues this week on FOX8. Stay tuned for details.
GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — Wednesday marks 5 years since everything changed for Caitlin Little, then a precocious athlete at Southeast Guilford High School.
On Feb. 18, 2019, we published our first episode of “Caitlin Can’t Remember,” a series that would follow the Little family as they searched for answers.
The family asked us to tell their story because they felt they had no other options. They’re a very private family but no doctor could give them any insight into why Caitlin can’t remember anything and, worse yet, no suggestions for what may heal her. They felt they needed to get the word out about her condition and they’ve heard from people from all around the world, many in similar situations
For the first dozen or so episodes, we would check in with the Littles once a week. As time went on we scaled back, checking in every few weeks or about every month. As of Oct. 11, it has been a full year since our most recent episode, Episode 30, of “Caitlin Can’t Remember,” but FOX8 Senior Reporter Bob Buckley was never far. Bob has stayed in contact with Catilin and her parents, Chris and Jennifer, and this week we will be sharing some good news about Caitlin, now 19 years old, on FOX8.
As we prepare for our next update along Caitlin’s journey, follow us back into the past and see how we get here.
5 p.m., Oct. 12, 2017
Caitlin was a freshman cross country athlete at Southeast Guilford High School in the fall of 2017. She was at practice, when, as the story is told by several people who were there, some kids were goofing around and one kid got shoved and hit Caitlin in the temple giving Caitlin a concussion that lasted far longer than anyone – even the doctors who examined her – thought it would.
“[The neurologist] called what he recommended, ‘cocooning,’” her father Chris said. “Cocoon her, protect her from anything very stimulating that might induce more headaches. He said, ‘Well, OK, this looks pretty bad. But, in my experience,’ he said, ’90 percent of these resolve themselves in three weeks.’”
“That was the magic number, three weeks. We just need to make it to three weeks,” Caitlin’s mom Jennifer told us back in February of 2019. By that point, it had already been more than a year.
She did get better over the first six months but had been stuck at that level since April 2018 and had to develop ways to cope in a world that changes, while her memory couldn’t add new information.
“[I have to be] very organized. So I have lots of Post-It notes that say, ‘Hey, let’s do this,’ or, ‘This is new,’ or things to help me out. So it’s not as hard as I’d imagine it’d be without them,” Caitlin said in 2019.
Because of her condition, Caitlin wakes up each morning thinking it’s Oct. 13, 2017 — the day after the accident.
Caitlin could remember most of what happens on any given day, but her brain would reset overnight and, each morning, she woke up with no memory of the day before.
Each morning, her father would wake her up and tell her what day it is and what happened all those months ago that robbed her of her memory.
“I’m always afraid that she’s going to jump out of bed and tell me, ‘It’s wrong’ and, ‘It can’t be.’ And, why am I lying to her? So I’m always very hesitant everyday when I do it, but it’s my job. I have to tell her,” her dad said in that first episode.
When asked if Caitlin has ever pushed back, he said, “The most that she’s ever done is act very, very surprised. Or say something like, ‘How can that be?’ And when she does that, I explained to her that she has a journal. It’s on her desk. She has Post-It Notes, read those and if she has any questions, come and see me in 15, 20 minutes.”
Over the last five years, the search for answers has brought Caitlin to countless doctors and neurologists, including many out-of-state.
“There was one doctor who runs a concussion clinic in Virginia who contacted us and he said, ‘I heard about the case online. I want to help you. We deal with concussions, send us the diagnostics, the imaging that you have about our case,’” remembers Chris, of his contact with the doctor in summer 2018. “And we sent that and he sent back something else saying, ‘I’m sorry I can’t help you. I’ve never seen anything like this.’”
They tried every possible solution they could find, including a hyperbaric oxygen chamber that they kept in the work building Chris has out back.
“We first saw that high-level athletes were using it,” says Chris. If it was good enough for a million dollar athlete, he figured it was good enough for his daughter.
As more and more people heard Caitlin’s story, famous television personalities started to pay attention.
“The Dr. Phil Show had one of his representatives call me and was very matter-of-fact, businesslike,” Chris said. “He saw your show – saw the episodes and was interested in airing it nationally. They were very kind and offered to fly us out, I think it was to LA to do a taping of the show. Offered to put us up in a hotel and said that if they could find somebody who might be able to help her, they might help out with that avenue too with doctors and all.”
They didn’t take Dr. Phil up on his offer, but, in the summer of 2019, she did end up flying to New York City to appear on “The Dr. Oz Show.” Dr. Oz didn’t have any definitive answers but the Littles feel like they’re continuing to make progress. She was later also featured in People magazine.
In February 2020, her family told us she had a bad reaction to much of the treatment that has been prescribed for her and her memory was receding.
“Still 60 seconds, sometimes shorter. It’s been that way since May,” Jennifer said at the time.
She was more than two years into her amnesia when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, which brought even more challenges.
In June 2021, Caitlin graduated from high school. Caitlin, her family and her teacher Chris Cook, who became her tutor in all subjects after her injury, worked immensely hard to make sure she was ready for graduation.
“A lot of kids would have thrown their hands up and quit. She didn’t,” Cook said. “She did earn it – there’s no question about that.”
After years of being in too much pain to run – likely from the Lyme disease they think Caitlin developed around the time of the accident when she got hit in the head – she hadn’t been doing much moving, rarely leaving the house outside of her treatments and tending to her garden.
But by October 2021, she was running everyday.
“I don’t know if it’s blood flow to the brain, endorphins or whatever, but it is very therapeutic for her,” her father Chris said.
And they’re continuing all they can do to heal her body.
“We’re doing supplements that are attacking the Lyme disease. She gets six chiropractic adjustments, most weeks,” Jennifer said.
And those take a three-hour round trip to Holly Springs, south of Raleigh, for the particular type of chiropractic work they want for Caitlin.
And while Caitlin hadn’t regained her memory, she appeared to have some concept of her situation.
“She doesn’t question me about teaching from home,” Jennifer said. “She doesn’t question why her brothers are going to school and she doesn’t throw on a bookbag. She’s at peace, somehow, with what’s going on.”